Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Radios for Firefighters Who Hate PowerPoint

The dreaded radio operations drill. We have all sat through endless PowerPoint slides with pictures of radios and sample communications in quotation marks that struggles to hold our attention. So it may be surprising that one of the best classes I’ve ever taken covered basic radio use, but with a twist.

While attending Firefighter II at a small regional fire school in Connecticut, our instructors found a great way to deliver engaging radio operations training. Instead of hours in the classroom to cover radio usage and fireground communication, we headed out to the training grounds. Paired up in groups of two, we were handed a radio and a blindfold. One teammate was assigned the radio and instructed to head to the third story of the training tower. The other teammate was blindfolded and led to a checkerboard maze of cut carpet squares. We were assigned a distinct call sign and instructed to use radio communications to walk our teammate through the maze. If the blindfolded teammate’s foot touched anywhere outside the carpet square, you failed and had to start over.

While this was challenging enough, the real trouble started when the lesson kicked in. Without prior knowledge, our instructors started two teams at the same time, on the same channel. Within minutes everyone began to truly understand the importance of call signs (“hey you, it’s me”) and how concise transmissions can translate to lives saved. The instructors would throw out random traffic, artificial maydays, and sly instructions that, if followed without hearing your call sign, would lead to failure.

This drill has become one of my go-to training exercises when working with new firefighters or our active junior cadet program. High quality radio communications are one of our best friends on the fire ground. Radio operations training - where firefighters actually practice speaking over the radio with additional traffic - is critical to your department. Poor communications can wreak havoc on a scene and lead to deadly mistakes. Not only does this drill reinforce those critical basic radio competencies, it is a ton of fun!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments or contact us. Share your favorite training idea with us, we know you have a good one!

This was originally posted at:

For more, check out 'My Page' or visit

Views: 422


You need to be a member of Fire Engineering Training Community to add comments!

Join Fire Engineering Training Community

Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our community policy page.  

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2024   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service